A group of Roman Catholic nuns kicked off a nine-state bus tour across the Midwest this morning in an effort to highlight the cuts to safety net programs contained in the House Republican budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), himself an outspoken Catholic. The bus tour began this morning in Iowa and includes a Tuesday stop in Ryan’s Wisconsin district.
Along the tour, the nuns will stop at food pantries, shelters, schools, and hospitals to highlight the impact of the cuts. They will also visit the offices of ten Republicans who voted for the budget, including Ryan and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), another outspoken Catholic. The purpose is to draw attention the work the nuns have done on behalf of poor Americans and the devastating impact the Republican cuts would have on those who rely on safety net programs, Sister Simone Campbell told the New York Times:
“We’re doing this because these are life issues,” said Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of Network, a liberal social justice lobby in Washington. “And by lifting up the work of Catholic sisters, we will demonstrate the very programs and services that will be decimated by the House budget.”
As ThinkProgress has highlighted, the GOP budget would cut millions out of food assistance and other programs, with 62 percent of its spending cuts coming from safety net programs. Ryan attempted to use his Catholic faith to justify the cuts when the budget was released, earning a strong rebuke from religious leaders across the country. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) called the cuts “unjustified and wrong” and sent letters to Congressional committees urging them to oppose the draconian measures.
The nuns’ bus tour is taking the issue a step farther, though, mere weeks after the Vatican called on American nuns to stop highlighting economic justice issues in order to focus more on other church priorities, including abortion, gay marriage, and contraception. And though the House GOP budget directly contradicts much of Catholic social teaching, the USCCB has remained far more outspoken on what it perceives as affronts to “religious liberty” than they have on the spending cuts.
The nuns have asked some of the Bishops to join the tour but have thus far not received a response. The nine-state tour includes stops in Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia before ending July 2 in Washington D.C.
The nuns held a press conference outside Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) district office this morning (photo via @NETWORKlobby):